July 4 will mark the 25th anniversary of the historic Flood of 1994 in which Hurricane Alberto dropped more than a dozen inches of rain on Monroe County in the span of two days, causing widespread flooding along the Towaliga and Ocmulgee rivers. About 100 Monroe County homes were deemed “unlivable” as a result of the flood waters and many more sustained damage. Three Monroe Countians, John Cary Bittick, Mark Goolsby and Jackson Daniel reflected to the Reporter on their memories of the flood 25 years later.
• Former Monroe County Sheriff and current U.S. Marshal John Cary Bittick said his most vivid memory was talking on the telephone with Dep. Bubba Roquemore on the afternoon of July when the old High Falls footbridge gave way from the raging waters and slammed into the concrete highway bridge on the afternoon of July 5. Bittick said he’d assured people the 92-year-old suspension bridge would survive and said he was shocked when Roquemore described its downfall. Bittick said his other most notable recollection of the flood was the immense support the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office received from other jurisdictions, including Cobb County Sheriff Bill Hudson, who sent 14 deputies to serve Monroe County for several weeks in the aftermath of the flood. Bittick said deputies were needed to insure that unsafe roads remained barricaded, especially along the Ocmulgee River, where the Georgia Department of Transportation had shut down bridges between Monroe and Jones counties.
• Former Juliette business owner and current Monroe County building inspector Mark Goolsby recalled four feet of water entering his McCrackin Street antique shop during the Flood of ‘94, bringing all sorts of fish and snakes into his store. Goolsby said water stretched all the way up to the top of the street where the Juliette fire station sits, knocking power out for several weeks. Goolsby said it took three to four months for his shop to re-open. “I hope I never see another one,” Goolsby said of the Flood of ‘94. Despite the misfortune, Goolsby said he remembers how the Juliette community banded together to help families whose homes flooded. For example, Goolsby’s church, New Harvest Church of God, was used to store items from Juliette businesses until they could be inhabitable again. Goolsby said, “When disaster strikes, folks come together.”
• Former Reporter editor and current Monroe County Schools chief finance officer Jackson Daniel said he remembers getting the newspaper to press on July 4 and then spending the next two days monitoring his scanner as the flood waters worsened. Daniel recalled covering a school board meeting on July 5 with scanner in hand and hearing later that night of a vehicle being swept into the Towaliga River as it unsuccessfully tried to cross the Hwy. 87 bridge. A Tifton woman was rescued the following morning from the river after clinging to a tree for almost nine hours, but her husband, a 64-year-old, drowned in the flood. Daniel said of the fatality: “It was hard to listen to. It stuck with me.” Daniel said another memory was riding to Macon on I-75 with a sheriff’s deputy to view the damage there. The interstate was only open to rescue personnel at the time, and Daniel’s vehicle was literally the only one between Forsyth and Macon. Daniel said Forsyth was fortunate to escape the level of damage suffered in parts of south Georgia along the Flint River and said Forsyth was actually a popular destination for visitors during that time because the city never lost water service, unlike Macon. Daniel said of the flood: “It was impactful here, but it wasn’t devastating.”